Client Success Story: Curt and Cindie Steel

The Steels’ Historic One-Room Schoolhouse Seamlessly Converts Into Charmer—Thanks to American Dimensions

SITUATION SUMMARY: Don Federle made such an impression on Curt and Cindie Steel when he built their new home 19 years ago that he was their first choice to remodel the 1854 one-room schoolhouse they moved into seven years later. Working out every detail on this award winning project with the Steels, American Dimensions seamlessly added four rooms onto the schoolhouse while preserving the building’s historic character.

THE CHALLENGE
“Don had to figure out how to blend the addition aesthetically and structurally. We knew from a historic standpoint that we wanted to preserve the look of the original structure.”

When we bought the schoolhouse twelve years ago, it hadn’t been a full-time residence since 1937.

We hired Don to build an addition a year-and-a-half after we moved in.

Needless to say, there weren't strict building codes when the schoolhouse was built in 1854. The original foundation of the schoolhouse consists of chestnut trees on rocks. Don had to figure out not only how to blend it aesthetically, but also structurally. When you build an addition, you have to join it to the existing home. There could be no weight put on the original structure. It had to support itself. We also knew from a historic standpoint that we wanted to preserve the look of the original structure.

WHY AMERICAN DIMENSIONS?

When you live in a one-room schoolhouse, every detail counts. Don’s craftsmanship and abilities were superb. Others were very capable carpenters and contractors, but they didn't have the background and eye for detail that Don does. Plus, he’s a great guy.”

When you live in a one-room schoolhouse, every detail counts. Although this was the first time Don had done anything with a historic structure, we knew he'd do a great job.

Seven years earlier, Don had helped us build our last house. His craftsmanship and abilities were superb. For example, he constructed our fireplace mantle to the tee from the photos in a magazine. It looked phenomenal.

We had worked with other contractors on other projects. But when it came time for this addition, we said, ‘We need Don. There's no question about it.’ Others were capable carpenters and contractors, but they didn't have Don’s background and eye for detail. Plus, he’s a great guy. He’s polite, he’s pleasant, and he follows up. We also knew he had studied architecture and design in college.

THE SOLUTION

The attention to detail was incredible. He actually drove around the roads of Sherman looking at other homes, picking up little details so he could incorporate them into our home and make it look seamless. Don was collaborative, too. He started carrying around a notebook of Cindie's photos, and he incorporated every nuance from those. It’s a marvel of construction.”

The attention to detail was incredible. Don blended everything to create the perfect addition to a historic one-room schoolhouse. He picked up little details so he could incorporate them into our home and make it look seamless.

He actually drove around the roads of Sherman looking at other homes—especially on our road, which is the town’s main road. He picked up little details so he could incorporate them into our home and make it look seamless. He’d say things like, ‘Oh, that house has this cornice fascia…” That was how it evolved. He matched up the wainscoting from the inside of the school, duplicating all these details in the addition so everything looked like it flowed.

Don was collaborative, too. We have a saying that every home decorating magazine costs us a grand when it comes through the door. We had a notebook of all the things we wanted to incorporate into our dream house. It was so much easier for us to show him a picture than to try to describe it. He started carrying around a notebook of Cindie's photos, and he incorporated every nuance from those.

For example, we decided we wanted two New England eyebrow windows. And as Don did that, he also put in a loft. He built a staircase that goes to the loft where the eyebrow windows are. We thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be a great place for kids to play?’ That’s exactly what it is now. A space where our grandchildren can play with their toys. That’s very unique.

It’s a marvel of construction. The schoolhouse moves all the time, in every season of the year. There are some doors that won't stay closed in the wintertime, that you can't close at all in the summer. Everything breathes and contracts and expands. So, for that reason Don couldn't hard-fix the addition to the schoolhouse. From the outside, it looks like they’re joined. But where the roofs come together, the roof beams don't actually tie together. They float back and forth next to each other.

It's perfect. We've never had a single leak or problem. If it hadn’t been done properly, we would know by now!

THE APPROACH

Having a design and build company definitely came in handy. Especially with the multiple revisions and redesigns to satisfy the building and zoning commissions. Don was a trooper. There were a lot of meetings, but he went to the meetings with us.”

It took us 15 months to get the permit to build the addition. But that’s no reflection on Don. He was a trooper. We knew getting theapproval of our town was going to be a challenge. We had to design and redesign to satisfy their requirements .

We thoroughly enjoyed working with Don. Our experience of working with him totally reinforced our perception of his capabilities.

THE RESULT

You can’t believe how many people stop their cars to ask us questions about our house. The addition looks like it has always been there. It just fits. We just had our 12th anniversary living here, and we haven’t had any problems at all. We love it.”

The main benefit of working with Don was total and complete satisfaction. We love it. We just had our 12th anniversary living here, and we haven’t had any problems at all. We’re completely satisfied.

You can’t believe how many people stop their cars to ask us questions about our house.

The addition looks like it has always been there. It just fits. Those have been the comments all these years later.

We don't know how Don could have improved his service. How could you improve on perfection? So, I guess you could say we like Don. And we definitely like our addition.


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